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Eleanor was the wife of King Louis VII and later King Henry II of England.She was also the mother of two English kings, Richard the Lion-Hearted and John.her control of Aquitaine, then a vast independent state next to France, made her a central figure in the struggle for power between France and England.
Eleanor was the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine.In 1137, when Eleanor was 15 years old, she inherited Aquitaine.Her land came under French control when she married Louis VII later that year.Eleanor and Louis had two daughters.But the lack of male heir contributed to unhappiness in their marriage, and they agreed to a divorce in 1152.
Within months, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, who became King Henry II of England in 1154.Later, Eleanor and Henry lost affection for each other, and she supported a revolt against him in 1173.The revolt failed and Henry imprisoned Eleanor.Eleanor was freed in 1189, after Henry died and Richard became king.Eleanor greatly influenced both Richard and John during their reigns.
Contributor:Marion Meade, M.S., author, Eleanor of Aquitaine
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Eleanor Of Aquitaine also called ELEANOR OF GUYENNE, French ÉLÉONORE, OR ALIÉNOR, D'AQUITAINE, OR DE GUYENNE, queen consort of both Louis VII of France (in 1137-52) and Henry II of England (in 1152-1204) and mother of Richard I the Lion-Heart and John of England. She was perhaps the most powerful woman in 12th-century Europe. Eleanor was the daughter and heiress of William X, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers, who possessed one of the largest domains in France--larger, in fact, than those held by the French king. Upon William's death in 1137 she inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine and in July 1137 married the heir to the French throne, who succeeded his father, Louis VI, the following month. Eleanor became queen of France, a title she held for the next 15 years. Beautiful, capricious, and adored by Louis, Eleanor exerted considerable influence over him, often goading him into undertaking perilous ventures.
From 1147 to 1149 Eleanor accompanied Louis on the Second Crusade to protect the fragile Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, founded after the First Crusade only 50 years before, from Turkish assault. Eleanor's conduct during this expedition, especially at the court of her uncle Raymond of Poitiers at Antioch, aroused Louis's jealousy and marked the beginning of their estrangement. After their return to France and a short-lived reconciliation, their marriage was annulled in March 1152. According to feudal customs, Eleanor then regained possession of Aquitaine, and two months later she married the grandson of Henry I of England, Henry Plantagenet, count of Anjou and duke of Normandy. In 1154 he became, as Henry II, king of England, with the result that England, Normandy, and the west of France were united under his rule. Eleanor had only two daughters by Louis VII; to her new husband she bore five sons and three daughters. The sons were William, who died at the age of three; Henry; Richard, the Lion-Heart; Geoffrey, duke of Brittany; and John, surnamed Lackland until, having outlived all his brothers, he inherited, in 1199, the crown of England. The daughters were Matilda, who married Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria; Eleanor, who married Alfonso VIII, king of Castile; and Joan, who married successively William II, king of Sicily, and Raymond VI, count of Toulouse. Eleanor would well have deserved to be named the "grandmother of Europe."
During her childbearing years, she participated actively in the administration of the realm and even more actively in the management of her own domains. She was instrumental in turning the court of Poitiers, then frequented by the most famous troubadours of the time, into a centre of poetry and a model of courtly life and manners. She was the great patron of the two dominant poetic movements of the time: the courtly love tradition, conveyed in the romantic songs of the troubadours, and the historical matière de Bretagne, or "legends of Britanny," which originated in Celtic traditions and in the Historia regum Britanniae, written by the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth some time between 1135 and 1139.
The revolt of her sons against her husband in 1173 put her cultural activities to a brutal end. Since Eleanor, 11 years her husband's senior, had long resented his infidelities, the revolt may have been instigated by her; in any case, she gave her sons considerable military support. The revolt failed, and Eleanor was captured while seeking refuge in the kingdom of her first husband, Louis VII. Her semi-imprisonment in England ended only with the death of Henry II in 1189. On her release, Eleanor played a greater political role than ever before. She actively prepared for Richard's coronation as king, was administrator of the realm during his crusade to the Holy Land, and, after his capture by the Duke of Austria on Richard's return from the east, collected his ransom and went in person to escort him to England. During Richard's absence, she succeeded in keeping his kingdom intact and in thwarting the intrigues of his brother John Lackland and Philip II Augustus, king of France, against him.
In 1199 Richard died without leaving an heir to the throne, and John was crowned king. Eleanor, nearly 80 years old, fearing the disintegration of the Plantagenet domain, crossed the Pyrenees in 1200 in order to fetch her granddaughter Blanche from the court of Castile and marry her to the son of the French king. By this marriage she hoped to insure peace between the Plantagenets of England and the Capetian kings of France. In the same year she helped to defend Anjou and Aquitaine against her grandson Arthur of Brittany, thus securing John's French possessions. In 1202 John was again in her debt for holding Mirebeau against Arthur, until John, coming to her relief, was able to take him prisoner. John's only victories on the Continent, therefore, were due to Eleanor.
She died in 1204 at the monastery at Fontevrault, Anjou, where she had retired after the campaign at Mirebeau. Her contribution to England extended beyond her own lifetime; after the loss of Normandy (1204), it was her own ancestral lands and not the old Norman territories that remained loyal to England. She has been misjudged by many French historians who have noted only her youthful frivolity, ignoring the tenacity, political wisdom, and energy that characterized the years of her maturity. "She was beautiful and just, imposing and modest, humble and elegant"; and, as the nuns of Fontevrault wrote in their necrology: a queen "who surpassed almost all the queens of the world."
Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (1950), is a major work with complete notes and a good bibliography and sources. H.G. Richardson, "The Letters and Charters of Eleanor of Aquitaine," English Historical Review, 74:193-213 (1959), adds some unpublished sources to those gathered by Amy Kelly. Régine Pernoud, Aliénor d'Aquitaine (1965), gives more attention to the personality and politics of Eleanor herself, independently from the history of her two husbands.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful and fascinating personalities of feudal Europe. At age 15 she married Louis VII, King of France, bringing into the union her vast possessions from the River Loire to the Pyrenees. Only a few years later, at age 19, she knelt in the cathedral of Vézelay before the celebrated Abbé Bernard of Clairvaux offering him thousands of her vassals for the Second Crusade. It was said that Queen Eleanor appeared at Vézelay dressed like an Amazon galloping through the crowds on a white horse, urging them to join the crusades.
While the church may have been pleased to receive her thousand fighting vassals, they were less happy when they learned that Eleanor, attended by 300 of her ladies, also planned to go to help "tend the wounded."
The presence of Eleanor, her ladies and wagons of female servants, was criticized by commentators throughout her adventure. Dressed in armor and carrying lances, the women never fought. And when they reached the city of Antioch, Eleanor found herself deep in a renewed friendship with Raymond, her uncle, who had been appointed prince of the city. Raymond, only a few years older than Eleanor, was far more interesting and handsome than Eleanor's husband, Louis. When Raymond decided that the best strategic objective of the Crusade would be to recapture Edessa, thus protecting the Western presence in the Holy Land, Eleanor sided with his view. Louis, however, was fixated on reaching Jerusalem, a less sound goal. Louis demanded that Eleanor follow him to Jerusalem. Eleanor, furious, announced to one and all that their marriage was not valid in the eyes of God, for they were related through some family connections to an extent prohibited by the Church. Wounded by her claim, Louis nonetheless forced Eleanor to honor her marriage vows and ride with him. The expedition did fail, and a defeated Eleanor and Louis returned to France in separate ships.
On her way home, while resting in Sicily, Eleanor was brought the news that her fair haired uncle had been killed in battle, and his head delivered to the Caliph of Baghdad. Although her marriage to Louis continued for a time, and she bore him two daughters, the relationship was over. In 1152 the marriage was annulled and her vast estates reverted to Eleanor's control. Within a year, at age thirty, she married twenty year old Henry who two years later became king of England.
In the papal bull for the next Crusade, it expressly forbade women of all sorts to join the expedition. All the Christian monarchs, including King Louis, agreed to this. But by this time Eleanor had problems of her own in her marriage to King Henry II of England.
After Returning From The Crusades
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In a way Eleanor of Aquitaine's life had barely begun after she returned to France from her travels on the Second Crusade. She lived until her eighties, becoming one of the great political and wealthy powers of medieval Europe.
Eleanor was wealthy because she was heiress of the the duchy of Aquitaine, one of the greatest fiefs in Europe. Aquitaine was like a separate nation with lands extending in southwestern France from the river Loire to the Pyrenees. Here Eleanor's court was a trend setter in the medieval world, known for its sophistication and luxury. Heavily influenced by the Spanish courts of the Moors, it gave patronage to poets and encouraged the art of the troubadours, some of whom were believed to be in love with the beautiful Eleanor. One story is that in her effort to shed her rough knights of their unruly ways, she made up a mock trial in which the court ladies sat on an elevated platform and judged the knights, who read poems of homage to women and acted out proper courting techniques. The men wore fancy clothes - flowing sleeves, pointed shoes - and wore their hair long.
During their adventures on the Second Crusade, it became apparent that her marriage with dour, severe King Louis VII of France was ill matched. The marriage was annulled on a technicality, and Eleanor left her two daughters by him to be raised in the French court. Within a short time Eleanor threw herself into a new marriage, a stormy one to Henry of Anjou, an up and coming prince eleven years younger than she. Their temperaments as well as their wealth in land were well matched; her new husband became Henry II king of England in 1154.
For the next thirteen years Eleanor constantly bore Henry children, five sons and three daughters. (William, Henry, Richard I "the Lionheart", Geoffrey, John "Lackland", Mathilda, Eleanor, and Joan). Richard and John became, in turn, kings of England. Henry was given the title "the young king" by his father, although father Henry still ruled. Through tough fighting and clever alliances, and with a parcel of children, Henry and Eleanor created an impressive empire. As well, Eleanor was an independent ruler in her own right since she had inherited the huge Duchy of Aquitaine and Poitiers from her father when she was 15.
However all was not well between Henry and Eleanor. When her older sons were of age, her estrangement from her husband grew. In 1173 she led her three of her sons in a rebellion against Henry, surprising him with this act of aggressive so seemingly unusual for a woman. In her eyes it was justified. After two decades of child bearing, putting up with his infidelities, vehemently disagreeing with some of his decisions, and, worst of all, having to share her independence and power, Eleanor may have hoped that her prize would have been the right to rule Aquitaine with her beloved third son Richard, and without Henry. The rebellion was put down, however, and fifty-year-old Eleanor was imprisoned by Henry in various fortified buildings for the next fifteen years.
In 1189, Henry died. On the accession of her son Richard I to kingship, Eleanor's fortunes rose again. She ruled England from 1190 to 1194 when Richard was fighting in the Holy Land, and when on his way home he was captured and held for ransom - which she raised for his release. In Richard's absence she repeatedly had to defend his possessions. Her fame as an extremely able politician with a real thirst for power grew.
Eleanor traveled constantly, even in her old age. Running from one end of Europe to another, she often risked her life in her efforts to maintain the loyalty of the English subjects, cement marriage alliances, and manage her army and estates. By this time she had many grandchildren, earning Eleanor the title of "Grandmother of Europe." Possibly one of her wisest acts was to travel to Spain to chose and collect her thirteen year old grand daughter Blanche of Castile to become the bride of Louis VIII of France, the grandson of her first husband Louis VII! Blanche eventually proved a rival to Eleanor in political influence and success as queen of France. Eleanor also, when almost seventy, rode over the Pyrenees to collect her candidate to be Richard's wife, (Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho the Wise of Navarre). She then traversed the Alps, traveling all the way down the Italian peninsula, to bring Berengaria to Richard in Sicily.
Eleanor died in 1204 at her favorite religious house, the abbey of Fontevrault, where she had retreated to find peace during various moments of the life.